Background: Conserved intraflagellar transport (IFT) particle proteins and IFT-associated motors are needed to assemble most eukaryotic cilia and flagella. Proteins in an IFT-A subcomplex are generally required for dynein-driven retrograde IFT, from the ciliary tip to the base. We describe novel structural and functional roles for IFT-A proteins in chordotonal organs, insect mechanosensory organs with cilia that are both sensory and motile.
Results: The reduced mechanoreceptor potential A (rempA) locus of Drosophila encodes the IFT-A component IFT140. Chordotonal cilia are shortened in rempA mutants and an IFT-B protein accumulates in the mutant cilia, consistent with a defect in retrograde IFT. A functional REMPA-YFP fusion protein concentrates at the site of the ciliary dilation (CD), a highly structured axonemal inclusion of hitherto unknown composition and function. The CD is absent in rempA mutants, and REMPA-YFP is undetectable in the absence of another IFT-A protein, IFT122. In a mutant lacking the IFT dynein motor, the CD is disorganized and REMPA-YFP is mislocalized. A TRPV ion channel, required to generate sensory potentials and regulate ciliary motility, is normally localized in the cilia, proximal to the CD. This channel spreads into the distal part of the cilia in dynein mutants and is undetectable in rempA mutants.
Conclusions: IFT-A proteins are located at and required by the ciliary dilation, which separates chordotonal cilia into functionally distinct zones. A requirement for IFT140 in stable TRPV channel expression also suggests that IFT-A proteins may mediate preciliary transport of some membrane proteins.